Looking for the very best and most popular books for fifth graders?
If you’re way over the graphic novels and you want your student to dig into some good books, then you’re in the right place!
I love putting together book lists to help teachers, parents, and homeschoolers find the next great book in their kid’s life.
Because as we adults know, books can be life-giving and even life-changing in these precipice years.
The below list of books is chock full of fantasy books, adventure books, survival stories, coming-of-age tales, and so much more that will bring even the reluctant readers running!
Many are Newberry and/or national book award winners. I also carefully check each one to make sure it is appropriate for the grade levels it is suggested. Which is a harder job than you might think these days.
Stock your classroom library, start a book club, prepare your novel studies for the year, fill in your read aloud list, and get reading!
Ultimate List Of The Best Books for 5th Graders
1. Inside Out And Back Again
Author: Thanhhà Lai
Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope—toward America.
2. Wingfeather Saga
Book: The Wingfeather Saga
Author: Andrew Peterson
After living for years under the occupation by the evil Fangs of Dang, the Igiby children find a map rumoured to lead to the lost Jewels of Anniera – the one thing the Fangs will do anything to find. The family is thrown headlong into a perilous adventure, uncovering truths about who they are that will change their world forever.
3. Where The Red Fern Grows
Book: Where The Red Fern Grows
Author: Wilson Rawls
This classic story is still good, year after year.
Billy has long dreamt of owning not one, but two, dogs. So when he’s finally able to save up enough money for two pups to call his own—Old Dan and Little Ann—he’s ecstatic. It doesn’t matter that times are tough; together they’ll roam the hills of the Ozarks.
Soon Billy and his hounds become the finest hunting team in the valley. Stories of their great achievements spread throughout the region, and the combination of Old Dan’s brawn, Little Ann’s brains, and Billy’s sheer will seems unbeatable. But tragedy awaits these determined hunters—now friends—and Billy learns that hope can grow out of despair, and that the seeds of the future can come from the scars of the past.
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Everybody loves Mother Paula’s pancakes. Everybody, that is, except the colony of cute but endangered owls that live on the building site of the new restaurant. Can the awkward new kid and his feral friend prank the pancake people out of town? Or is the owls’ fate cemented in pancake batter?
5. Skandar and the Unicorn Thief
Author: A.F. Steadman
Skandar Smith has always yearned to leave the Mainland and escape to the secretive Island, where wild unicorns roam free. He’s spent years studying for his Hatchery exam, the annual test that selects a handful of Mainlander thirteen-year-olds to train to become unicorn riders. But on the day of Skandar’s exam, things go horribly wrong, and his hopes are shattered…until a mysterious figure knocks on his door at midnight, bearing a message: the Island is in peril and Skandar must answer its call.
Author: Louis Sachar
Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.
It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.
7. Fish In A Tree
Book: Fish In A Tree
Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions. She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.
Author: Gary Paulson
Breathtaking survival story that has become a classic book.
On his way to visit his recently divorced father in the Canadian mountains, thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is the only survivor in a single-engine plane crash. His body battered, his clothes in shreds, Brian must now stay alive in the boundless Canadian wilderness.
9. The Elephant’s Girl
Book: The Elephant’s Girl
Author: Celesta Rimington
An elephant never forgets, but Lexington Willow can’t remember her past. Swept away by a tornado as a toddler, she was dropped in a nearby Nebraska zoo, where an elephant named Nyah protected her from the storm. With no trace of her family, Lex grew up at the zoo with her foster father, Roger; her best friend, Fisher; and the wind whispering in her ear.
Years later, Nyah sends the young girl a telepathic image of the woods outside the zoo. Soon, Lex is wrapped up in an adventure involving ghosts, lost treasure, and a puzzle that might be the key to finding her family. Can Lex summon the courage to discover who she really is–and why the tornado brought her here all those years ago?
10. Percy Jackson: The Lightning Theif
Author: Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse–Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him.
When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, god of the sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends–one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena–Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.
Author: Brandon Mull
This is one of the best book series on the market, according to my sixth grade daughter. Full of excitement, magical powers, and classic themes – your 5th graders will love it!
For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic in a cynical world. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite…
Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most.
12. The One And Only Ivan
Book: The One And Only Ivan
Author: Katherine Applegate
Having spent 27 years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.
Author: Brian Jacques
Welcome to Mossflower Wood, where the gentle mice have gathered to celebrate a year of peace and abundance. All is well…until a sinister shadow falls across the ancient stone abbey of Redwall. It is rumored that Cluny is coming—Cluny, the terrible one-eyed rat and his savage horde—Cluny, who has vowed to conquer Redwall Abbey! The only hope for the besieged mice lies in the lost sword of the legendary Martin the Warrior. And so begins the epic quest of a bumbling young apprentice—a courageous mouse who would rise up, fight back…and become a legend himself.
14. Maniac Mcgee
Book: Maniac Mcgee
Author: Jerry Spinelli
Jeffrey Lionel “Maniac” Magee might have lived a normal life if a freak accident hadn’t made him an orphan. After living with his unhappy and uptight aunt and uncle for eight years, he decides to run–and not just run away, but run. This is where the myth of Maniac Magee begins, as he changes the lives of a racially divided small town with his amazing and legendary feats.
15. The Westing Game
Book: The Westing Game
Author: Ellen Raskin
A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, on things for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!
16. Shadow Jumper
Book: Shadow Jumper
Author: J.M. Forster
Jack Phillips’s allergy to sunshine confines him to the shadows, leaving him lonely and at risk of life-threatening burns every time he steps into the light. Shadow jumping on the rooftops at dusk makes him feel alive. And free. But Jack’s condition is suddenly worse than ever and only his missing scientist dad can save him. As Jack and his new friend, Beth, begin their frantic search and delve into his dad’s past for clues, they have no idea what they are about to uncover. Shocking rumours and dark secrets bombard them at every turn. Jack is brave on the roofs. But can he find the courage to face the truth?
17. The Midnight Children
Book: The Midnight Children
Author: Dan Gemienhart
In the dead of night, a truck arrives in Slaughterville, a small town curiously named after its windowless slaughterhouse. Seven mysterious kids with suitcases step out of the vehicle and into an abandoned home on a dead-end street, looking over their shoulders to make sure they aren’t noticed.
But Ravani Foster covertly witnesses their arrival from his bedroom window. Timid and lonely, Ravani is eager to learn everything he can about his new neighbors: What secrets are they hiding? And most mysterious of all…where are the adults?
Yet amid this shadowy group of children, Ravani finds an unexpected friend in the warm and gutsy Virginia. But with this friendship comes secrets revealed―and danger. When Ravani learns of a threat to his new friends, he must fight to keep them safe, or lose the only person who has ever understood him.
18. Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
Author: Chris Grabenstein
When Kyle Keeley learns that the world’s world’s most famous game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, has designed the town’s new library and is having an invitation-only lock-in on opening night, Kyle is determined to be there! But the tricky part isn’t getting into the library—it’s getting out. Because when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must catch every clue and solve every puzzle to find the hidden escape route!
19. Half Upon A Time
Book: Half Upon A Time
Author: James Riley
Jack lives in a fantasy world. Really. He’s the son of the infamous Jack who stole the magic beans from the giant, and he’s working hard to restore his family’s reputation. He finds the perfect opportunity when a “princess” lands in front of him, apparently from the land of Punk, as her Punk Princess t-shirt implies. May is from our world, and she’s utterly confused to find herself in the midst of the fairy tale characters she has read about. But Jack and May have more in common than they realize–and together, they embark on a hilarious and wild adventure in this highly accessible, modern middle grade fantasy novel.
20. The Magic Theif
Book: The Magic Theif
Author: Sarah Prineas
In a city that runs on a dwindling supply of magic, a young boy is drawn into a life of wizardry and adventure. Conn should have dropped dead the day he picked Nevery’s pocket and touched the wizard’s locus magicalicus, a stone used to focus magic and work spells. But for some reason he did not. Nevery finds that interesting, and he takes Conn as his apprentice on the provision that the boy find a locus stone of his own. But Conn has little time to search for his stone between wizard lessons and helping Nevery discover who—or what—is stealing the city of Wellmet’s magic.
Author: Andrew Clements
Is Nick Allen a troublemaker? He really just likes to liven things up at school — and he’s always had plenty of great ideas. When Nick learns some interesting information about how words are created, suddenly he’s got the inspiration for his best plan ever…the frindle. Who says a pen has to be called a pen? Why not call it a frindle? Things begin innocently enough as Nick gets his friends to use the new word. Then other people in town start saying frindle. Soon the school is in an uproar, and Nick has become a local hero. His teacher wants Nick to put an end to all this nonsense, but the funny thing is frindle doesn’t belong to Nick anymore. The new word is spreading across the country, and there’s nothing Nick can do to stop it.
22. Esperanza Rising
Book: Esperanza Rising
Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
The story of Esperanza is a modern classic and already loved by many! Don’t miss it!
Esperanza thought she’d always live a privileged life on her family’s ranch in Mexico. She’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home filled with servants, and Mama, Papa, and Abuelita to care for her. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard work, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances-because Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.
23. Keeper Of The Lost Cities
Author: Shannon Messenger
This was the first book that really sucked in my oldest daughter. She has been obsessed with the series for years and even wanted to be the main character for Halloween! We are waiting on pins and needles for the next book to be released!
Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. The reason? Sophie’s a Telepath, someone who can read minds. No one knows her secret—at least, that’s what she thinks…
24. Flora & Ulysses
Book: Flora & Ulysses
Author: Kaite Dicamillo
Holy unanticipated occurrences! A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in a genre-breaking novel by master storyteller Kate DiCamillo.
25. Peter Nimble And His Fantastic Eyes
Author: Jonathan Auxier
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is the utterly beguiling tale of a ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery. One fateful afternoon, he steals a box from a mysterious traveling haberdasher—a box that contains three pairs of magical eyes. When he tries the first pair, he is instantly transported to a hidden island where he is presented with a special quest: to travel to the dangerous Vanished Kingdom and rescue a people in need. Along with his loyal sidekick—a knight who has been turned into an unfortunate combination of horse and cat—and the magic eyes, he embarks on an unforgettable, swashbuckling adventure to discover his true destiny.
26. Forgotten Five
Book: Forgotten Five
Author: Lisa McMann
Fifteen years ago, eight supernatural criminals fled Estero City to make a new life in an isolated tropical hideout. Over time, seven of them disappeared without a trace, presumed captured or killed. And now, the remaining one has died.
Left behind to fend for themselves are the criminals’ five children, each with superpowers of their own: Birdie can communicate with animals. Brix has athletic abilities and can heal quickly. Tenner can swim like a fish and can see in the dark and hear from a distance. Seven’s skin camouflages to match whatever is around him. Cabot hasn’t shown signs of any unusual power—yet.
Then one day Birdie finds a map among her father’s things that leads to a secret stash. There is also a note: Go to Estero, find your mother, and give her the map.
The five have lived their entire lives in isolation. What would it mean to follow the map to a strange world full of things they’ve only heard about, like cell phones, cars, and electricity? A world where, thanks to their parents, being supernatural is a crime?
27. Turtle in Paradise
Book: Turtle In Paradise
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
In Jennifer L. Holm’s New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor winning middle grade historical fiction novel, life isn’t like the movies. But then again, 11-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She’s smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it’s 1935 and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle’s mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn’t like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida to live with relatives she’s never met. Florida’s like nothing Turtle’s ever seen before though. It’s hot and strange, full of rag tag boy cousins, family secrets, scams, and even buried pirate treasure! Before she knows what’s happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she’s spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways. Filled with adventure, humor and heart, Turtle in Paradise is an instant classic both boys and girls with love.
28. The Unwanteds
Book: The Unwanteds
Author: Lisa McMan
A riveting middle grade dystopian novel from New York Times bestselling Wake author Lisa McMann that Kirkus Reviews calls ‘The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter.’
29. Winterborne Home For Vengeance And Valor
Author: Ally Carter
April didn’t mean to start the fire. She wasn’t the one who broke the vase. April didn’t ask to go live in a big, creepy mansion with a bunch of orphans who just don’t understand that April isn’t like them. After all, April’s mother is coming back for her someday very soon.
All April has to do is find the clues her mother left inside the massive mansion. But Winterborne House is hiding more than one secret, so April and her friends are going to have to work together to unravel the riddle of a missing heir, a creepy legend, and a mysterious key before the only home they’ve ever known is lost to them forever.
Author: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it’s love at first sight—and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh, belongs to Judd Travers, who drinks too much and has a gun—and abuses his dogs. So when Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty just has to hide him and protect him from Judd. But Marty’s secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd’s anger. How far will Marty have to go to make Shiloh his?
31. Turn The Tide
Book: Turn The Tide
Author: Elaine Dimopoulos
Twelve-year-old Mimi Laskaris is inspired by the Wijsen sisters of Bali to turn her focus from classical piano to a new obsession: forming a grassroots, kid-led movement to ban plastic bags in her new island home in Florida.
32. A Long Way From Chicago (Perfect Read-Aloud!)
Book: A Long Way From Chicago
Author: Richard Peck
This quick read is full of short stories that will have your young readers laughing and asking for more!
Join Joey and his sister Mary Alice as they spend nine unforgettable summers with the worst influence imaginable-their grandmother!
33. Pages & Co. The Book Wanderers
Author: Anna James
Since her mother’s disappearance, eleven-year-old Tilly Pages has found comfort in the stories at Pages & Co., her grandparents’ bookshop. But when her favorite characters, Anne of Green Gables and Alice from Wonderland, start showing up at the shop,Tilly’s adventures become very real. Not only can she follow Anne and Alice into their books, she discovers she can bookwander into any story she chooses. Tilly’s new ability leads her to fun and exciting adventures, but danger may be lurking on the very next page…
34. Mango Delight
Book: Mango Delight
Author: Fracaswell Hyman
When seventh-grader Mango Delight Fuller accidentally breaks her BFF Brooklyn’s new cell phone, her life falls apart. She loses her friends and her spot on the track team, and even costs her father his job as a chef. But Brooklyn’s planned revenge—sneakily signing up Mango to audition for the school musical—backfires when Mango not only wins the lead role, but becomes a YouTube sensation and attracts the attention of the school’s queen bee, Hailey Jo.
35. Number The Stars
Book: Number The Stars
Author: Lois Lowry
An amazing true story about a girl helping her Jewish friends escape to safety.
The unforgettable Newbery Medal–winning novel from Lois Lowry. As the German troops begin their campaign to “relocate” all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family.
Author: Judy Blume
Farley Drexel Hatcher—otherwise known as Fudge—thinks he’s a superhero, but his older brother, Peter, knows Fudge is nothing but a big pain! Dealing with Fudge is hard enough, but now Peter’s parents have decided to move to New Jersey for an entire year! Even worse, Peter’s mom is going to have a new baby. And if this baby is anything like Fudge—help! How will Peter ever survive?
Author: Katherine Applegate
Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”―people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with a crow named Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this wishtree watches over the neighborhood.
You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experience as a wishtree is more important than ever.
More Fifth-Grade Books!
More titles you might consider for your student include: The Secret Garden, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Where The Mountain Meets The Moon (amazing story!).
There is just so much out there for your middle school readers. I wish I could include every title, but this list would get out of control!
Please share in the comments your favorite 5th-grade books that didn’t make my list!